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Encouraging Mobile Gamers to Opt In For Push Notifications

By Morgan André, Senior CRM Manager, Flaregames

If you’ve played almost any mobile game, you’ll be familiar with the request to allow push notifications. And if you work in the mobile games industry in any capacity, you should be well aware of the importance of these messages.

In the context of a free-to-play game, a push notification might tell a player that their energy has been restored, or that their building has finished upgrading, or that they are being attacked by another player. It’s a clear call to action, driving players back into the game.

But there’s a challenge: they must agree to it first. An opt-in request is when you ask permission to the player to send notifications to their device – they either say yes (opt in) or no (opt out). The retention curve is statistically 15 to 20% better for players who receive notifications than for those who don’t, and data from our own games confirms this.

It’s worth noting, however, that players who accept push notifications are more likely to be retained than those who don’t – regardless of the push notifications themselves.

But on average, according to push notification technology provider Accengage, only 41% of players opt in. The process differs slightly based on platform. On iOS, players need to opt in to receive notifications. You can ask them only once, so if they refuse there is no simple way to reverse that decision. On Android the user is automatically considered as opt-in when they install the game, but they can opt out in two taps.

So the risk of users opting out is a major one, and their loss is significant from a business standpoint. What can be done to mitigate this?

We suggest that developers think carefully about how they ask players to opt in. On iOS in particular, we suggest asking via an in-app message before triggering the OS’s permission dialog. This provides several benefits:

  • It provides value to the user – we are explaining why we want to enable this channel and for what purpose.
  • Unlike the iOS permission dialog, an in-app message can be triggered multiple times if the user says no.
  • It allows us to trigger the system message only after establishing that the user is really interested.
  • It also allows us to reiterate and find the right message that will make users say “YES!” to push notifications.

To take an example from our own portfolio, in Flick Arena our opt-in request was previously triggered immediately when a player opened the app for the first time.

Left: Flick Arena’s original request for push notification permission. Middle and right: The improved implementation preceded with an in-app message.

 

When we moved that request to deeper in the game, during the tutorial when users started to unlock their first chest, our opt-in ratio doubled (from only 25% of players opting in to 50% on average).

The proportion of new iOS players who enabled notifications doubled with the improved messaging.

 

But it’s not quite so simple. Using in-app messages to request permission means that the number of attempts is technically unlimited, but we would recommend asking no more than three times per player – and never more than once in the same session.

There are other situations to deal with, too. What if a player on iOS rejects your one permission request earlier in the game, but you suspect that they might want to enable notifications later? For this situation, we recommend redirecting players to the device settings via a deeplink.

On top of this, there should be a permanent option to enable or disable notifications in the game’s settings – accessible at any time, and with the status made visible in the menu. Below is Flick Arena’s implementation of this.

The way in which players interact with these requests to enable notifications should be tracked, too. It should be tracked separately when a message is delivered, displayed, dismissed (closed without taking action), as well as whether the request is accepted or rejected. For those who enabled notifications, there should be more granular tracking – specifically, did they enable notifications through a pop-up dialog?

It is simply not enough, then, to ask players to enable push notifications without a proper process in place. Our own experiences show that by doing this, considerably fewer players will agree to receive push notifications. And without planning for this eventuality, the decision to opt out will be pretty much irreversible.

As a developer, it’s an unfortunate fact that some players simply won’t want to see your push notifications.  But by following these best practices, you increase the likelihood that they will – and give yourself a second chance if they change their mind.

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